W. G. Sebald, Humorist
18 hours ago
There are moments - long moments - when, even though I know this tale’s conclusion, I am uncertain how to reach it.I know my destination but fear distraction.I might lose my way.I can see it only feelingly.There is this distant light towards which I’m working and, here and there, events and situations set out like lamps to guide me but often, as now, I move in darkness.I become unsure if there is even ground beneath my feet.Words might fail me.I might fall into the air.I cling then to what I’ve so far written, this silver thread spun, spider-like, out of my own gut, and trust my web will hold, trust it will bear my weight, Grace’s, Daniel’s, yours.I admit, too, there is in me this reluctance to rush towards an ending, a fear that the great and final light is a fire that will consume me, that the posthumous affair I am recording will be, for me, an extinction.I, too, may die away.I may not profit from concluding, only lose.And so I take my time and insist, graciously, that you do, too.I wish to be true, you see, and faithful.The lives we trace here move more slowly than our own.The world was the size it is now but would have seemed larger, taking longer to traverse. Cities would have been days away, countries separated by weeks and the longer it took to reach a place, the longer one tended to stay. Partings then would have seemed more prolonged, final even, and the tension greater between stasis and movement, exile and home.We might find their experience of time unendurably protracted, wearisome and vacant in comparison with our own. Time may seem to lie heavy on them but that may not be their burden: it may be our loss.Technology liberates us. Planes, wireless, e-mail, telecommunications, unrestricted travel make the world more manageable and small. Our pace accelerates as continents contract. We leap oceans, cross skies, span the heavens, listen in on galaxies beyond. We burn up miles. We tear across space but the better our purchase on the world, the more it shrivels in our grasp.Life happens instantly and too fast. The world’s a blur. It hums at us too variously. Languor seems to us inertia, deceleration a form of dying and standing still a punishment.Distances for them might have been greater but they might have been closer to the thing itself - to life, that is. Time might be more real for being slower to pass, more virtuous for being less virtual.Living should be a slow unravelling: we are cheated if it is not.What will we lose by accommodating ourselves to their pace and so move in time with them?We might only gain.However long this story takes it will be over soon enough. The lives here will be done and you will have the rest of yours.